Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Beauty of Meadowlarks

Each year I am entranced when I hear the first few tentative songs from Eastern Meadowlarks. These songs are definitely signs that spring is near. I never grow tired of them.

The Meadowlarks' songs have been increasing in frequency over the past several weeks on the IU cross country course. Yesterday I counted eight beautifully singing male Meadowlarks competing to maintain their territories.

While the Meadowlarks' songs are sweet, the hues of their breeding plumage are even more beautiful. I'm not sure there's anything more striking in the early spring than a singing male Meadowlark facing the early morning sun. The vibrant yellows seem to glow and pop in the sun's rays, like they're illuminated from within. And the crisp black "V" bib on the chest offers a stark contrast with the bright golden colors.Then compare this vivid yellow/black display against the deep blue of an early spring sky. Stunning...

One pair of Meadowlarks yesterday put on a showy aerial chase that sort of reminded me of jet pilots flying in formation at an air show...very synchronized. The birds were sitting near each other at the top of a tree. One was singing, one was not. The silent bird suddenly took off from the tree, with the other bird in hot pursuit. Over the next several minutes they did all sorts of twists and turns and dives, with the birds no more than a foot apart the whole time. An impressive display. Then another Meadowlark flew up from the grass to join them. It must have ruined the moment. The chase ended, almost as if the birds had lost track of who was chasing who.

In reading BNA Online, I think I observed a male and female in what BNA calls the Aerial Chase: "Aerial Chases are typically initiated by female; she regulates their speed. May be single flights of short duration or series of brief flights alternated with intervals of rest and posturing on ground; more commonly a tortuous affair of 4–5 min, carrying pair well beyond confines of their territory." Pretty cool to see.

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